Christians, Modest Dress, Sexism, and Public Humiliation

I do not wish to directly link to the blog posting to which I am referring, lest a “track back” to my blog post here should appear there, which I don’t really want.

Someone at the “Stuff Christians Like” blog did a post (located at stuffchristianslike.net/2008/02/52-andy-stanley/#idc-cover), where someone left a remark where she explained,

You would have loved [pastor] Andy’s [Stanley’s] comment several years ago from the stage [during a church service].

He said, “I am sorry for those of you sitting to my right, but there is a woman who is wearing a low-cut shirt, and to keep my mind pure, I have to look elsewhere this morning.” He spoke mainly to the left-side, and occasionally looked to the middle section. I know the woman had to be embarrassed to be called out like that.

I’m not sure I’d applaud a pastor who publicly humiliated a woman in that manner. I find his action to be a little unloving and disgraceful.

I will at least give Stanley some credit for partially taking responsibility for his own thought life by looking away from the woman.

Too often on Christian forums and blogs (and the occasional televised sermon), I see entreaties by other Christians imploring Christian females to dress modestly so as not to lead Christian males into sinful thinking.

I’ve always found this to be annoying and misplaced advice.
I do recognize that the Scriptures instruct people to dress in a modest fashion. However, what is considered proper clothing is, or can be, subjective.

Some extremely judgmental neo-fundamentalists have been known to bicker on forums over a single inch: should a woman’s skirt be one inch at her knee or one inch below to be proper?

I’m sure most Christians, male and female, would agree that a thong bikini would be way too revealing for a church service. Beyond such obvious examples, though, I think the whole thing is legitimately disputable.

What one man would consider sexy and a “turn on” another would not. Some men get stimulated by a woman’s looks no matter how long her skirt is, or no matter how conservatively she is dressed.

Speaking of subjectivity in determining what constitutes attire that is sexy or modest as well as male responsibility in how to deal with the issue, here is an example that proves my point:

Dressed to Distraction, by M. Dowd (with emphasis added by me):

….[I]t was unusual when a knockout in New York, Debrahlee Lorenzana, a 33-year-old single mother, filed suit against Citigroup, claiming that she was fired in August from the Citibank branch at the Chrysler Center for looking too sexy.

“Plaintiff was advised that as a result of the shape of her figure,” her lawsuit reads, “such clothes were purportedly `too distracting’ for her male colleagues and supervisors to bear.”

….TV and tabloids ran pictures, taken by a photographer who works with her lawyer, showing Lorenzana in the pencil skirts, turtlenecks, tailored jackets and stilettos that she says made her bosses at the bank concentrate on the wrong kind of figures.

“She has to manage her wardrobe so these men can manage their libidos?” said her lawyer, Jack Tuckner, adding that her bosses acted as immaturely as the boys on “Wayne’s World.”

On Thursday night, as she prepared to appear on the Monday morning shows, Lorenzana recalled that her supervisors obsessed over what she was wearing, “saying things are too tight, you cannot wear turtlenecks. Well, guess what? When you say my pants are too tight when they’re not, then you must have been staring at me.

“The reality is, I’m a size 32 DD. I’m very skinny, and then I have curves. So, of course, on my body, the turtleneck is going to make it more noticeable. But I’m not showing cleavage. We wear jackets.”

She said a co-worker who shopped with her and bought the same styles and designer brands never got in trouble, and neither did some tellers who wore low-cut tops, snug pants and hot boots.

“I said, ‘You are discriminating to me, because of my body type,’ “ she said with a slight accent and a breathy voice. “This is genetic. What am I supposed to do?”

I can generally tell by looking at a guy in a suit if he’s “built” or not.

If I see a built, good looking, young guy the next time I’m at a church service, should I reprimand him for turning my head and advise him to wear a head- to- toe burka the next time he attends?

Women, secular or Christian, are not responsible for the thought lives of Christian men.

Appealing to Bible verses about not causing another believer to stumble don’t win me over on this topic, because it seems to me that people are using this to give males a way to shirk responsibility over their own behaviors, thoughts, and actions.

Even if I chose to go to church buck naked this next Sunday, it is up to each man to restrain his thought life.

Sometimes Christian people, both male and female, go to beaches and wear bathing suits.

If Christian men can and do control their impulses and thought lives while at the beach and see a woman stroll by in a bikini, why should they not be capable of the same while sitting in a church service on a Sunday morning?

A bikini is a bit more revealing than a low-cut blouse or a skirt that’s an inch or two above the knee.

So excuse me for finding the whole “dress modestly at church so as not to lead men astray” argument a little moronic and sexist.

I am also troubled that the Christian obsessive focus on how females should dress at church is akin to Islam sharia law and its strict rules about how women are to dress.

In some Islamic nations, women get arrested or harassed by squads of sharia law enforcers for wearing tight pants and the like.

Christians have liberty in Christ, while Islamic women the world over are in bondage to the legalism of their own religion. It is a shame that so many Christians want to place Christian women under a similar strain of bondage to legalism, nit picking, and rule keeping that afflicts so many Muslim women.

Here is a passage from a web page by author Paul Couglin that I agree with (source):

    Contrast that authentic goodness [the actions of Jesus Christ in Scriptures when he spoke bluntly, honestly, and critically to people] with the false niceness that Christian women often hold as sacred.

    Instead of focusing on inward goodness, they [Christian women] focus on outward appearances. The focus becomes what they don’t do—swear, use bad manners, smoke, get drunk, show cleavage, etc.—and these avoided behaviors are sanctified and held up as the pinnacle of what God wants from women.

    Meanwhile, what they [Christian women] do for God—attending church, teaching Sunday school, or tithing—can become a performance designed to impress others or to earn God’s love.

    Women begin to sound a lot like the Pharisees, focusing on the outward while ignoring the condition of their inward hearts.

    ….Bland niceness may bring a degree of comfort, but it doesn’t bring redemption or help create authentic goodness.

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